Wednesday, October 5, 2011

San Diego roundtrip: Julian, Engineers Road, Palomar Mountain (2-15-10)

San Diego roundtrip I-94, Julian, Engineers Road, Palomar Mountain 2-15-10

How's this for a lazy holiday ride? I received a call from fellow Rocket III rider George on Presidents day morning. The sun was shining and it was 77 degrees.

We met at San Diego's Fun Bike Center where a few folks stopped by to admire our bikes and ask how they, too, could be so cool. George has a black 2005 Classic, I have a blue 2009 Touring. I’ll do the math: that’s 4588 cc’s…

We departed on the 52 to the 125 south en route to the I-94, entering the I-94 east at Campo Road in La Mesa. The I-94 is a really nice route and was the perfect starting point for the day’s ride.

We turned onto Lyons Valley Road at Indian Springs, stopping briefly at Diamond Jacks RV Ranch and Store. Continuing north through the Cleveland Forest our road became Japatul/Lyons Valley Road for a while before becoming Japatul Road (if you're not a local, it's an Indian word pronounced Hop-uh-tool). We went under the I-8 where the road became Highway 79. Where the road splits to Old Highway 80, we remained on the 79 and headed to the Cuyamaca area.

As we circled around Lake Cuyamaca, George pointed up into the hills to the left. I thought: “Up there? There’s nothing up in those hills.” I was wrong, as we soon turned onto Engineers Road. George correctly called this a “get to know your bike” road. Suffice it to say there are some changes in elevation and a few tight curves. Wow.

Engineers Road dead ended into Boulder Creek Road, then we turned north onto Blue Jay Drive. The entire area is picturesque and one can expect to dodge small animals and ride through shallow water flowing across small dips (never deeper than 2-3”). Turning left on Pine Hills Road took us north to Julian Road and the 78/79. After a pit stop for beef jerky, a cold drink and gas top-offs, we headed west a couple of blocks to the 79 north located conveniently at Dudley’s Bakery (popular with bike enthusiasts for pie and motorcycle camaraderie). We hung a left on Mesa Grande Road and the peg-grinding began. Sparks were flying as we traveled through the tight turns “at speed.”

At the 76/Pala Road, we turned left and rode past Lake Henshaw. Have I mentioned that it’s really pretty out here? Well, it is. County Highway 7 (S-7) turned into East Grade Road and that led us to Palomar Mountain. Mother’s Kitchen at about 5000’ is a nice place to stop and enjoy a cup of coffee (there was snow on the ground). We didn’t have any coffee, however, as George was ready to race down S-6, also known as South Grade Road, also known as Palomar Mountain Road. And race we did. Virtually no traffic in either direction allowed us to push it a little bit. My big Tourer couldn’t keep up with George’s Classic. I heard scrapes and saw sparks as he put his bike though the paces. That went so well that we turned right back around and did it again. I think going up the hill was even better. The bike got squirrely when I hit some slick spots going into a couple of the corners “a little fast” but nothing too exciting. The adrenaline was pumping to be sure…

We took a short break at the top before heading down the South Grade Road again. You’d think by the third time I would have had the turns down pat but I was still surprised to hear the satisfying sound of floorboards scraping as I turned into the tight curves.

Heading toward home on the S-6, we passed Harrah’s Rincon Casino on our way to the I-15 at Escondido. The traffic on I-15 south was heavy but moving and we made time heading down the slab.

George peeled off near Mira Mesa; I continued south to La Mesa with a smile tough to conceal. THAT was a day of riding!

I rolled into my driveway 6 hours and 200 miles later wondering how many other great undiscovered rides (by me, anyhow) are still out there? Thanks to the twisties, my pegs were considerably more scraped. I was a bit tired but happy with a great ride.

OK, where to next?

Ride Report: Yellowstone & Glacier National Parks (2009)

Ride Report Yellowstone Glacier Parks 2009

(OK, I didn't write this one --my friend Randy did-- but I participated. Enjoy!)

This ride only included one SoCal Member (Randy Love) and two of his old friends from work (David Talley and Dan Diego). Dave and Randy headed out of Orange County on Sunday, June 7th at about 8:00 am and met Dan on the Cajon Pass at around 9:30. We cut off on Hwy 395 in route to Mesquite where there's a great breakfast place on the right just over the bridge. After breakfast, we got back on I-15. It was a straight shot from there to Mesquite, stopping only for gas. We only had two meals a day on this trip which consisted of breakfast after about an hour on the road and dinner once we stopped for the night. No lunch stops. Hey, I lost 4 pounds on this plan!

June 8th, We left Mesquite and stopped in Saint George for breakfast and Radio Shack so I could purchase an AC charger for my MP-3. It's nice to have music on those back roads. After breakfast, it was off to Zion with a stop in Springdale to check out a few of the shops. We decided early on that this was to be a "NO RUSH" trip. We planned this trip to take in the sights at a slow pace and planned to stop anywhere something interested us.
After leaving Zion, we continued through the Zion tunnels and on to Mt. Carmel where we picked up scenic Hwy 89. We stopped in Panguith for an early dinner. It's a great little Texas style BBQ place we found on the 2007 Brice, Zion, Grand Canyon trip. After dinner, me mounted up and headed to Richfield for the night. This route gets 5 stars for scenery with it's lush river valleys, meadows and ranch country.

June 9th, I screwed up leaving Richfield as I-70 splits off of Hwy 89 in Salina Utah. I had planned to continue up 89 and really should have been using my GPS because there are no signs whatsoever directing travelers towards Salt Lake City or Provo in Salina!!! By the time I realized my mistake, I had taken the group 60 miles towards Green River Utah on I-70!!! We decided to continue on to Green River because it would have taken longer to go back. We took a butt break in Green River and gassed up. Dan fired up my GPS and I led the guys down Hwy 191 to Hwy 6 and eventually made it to Evanston Wyoming before dark even though my screw up probably took us over 200 miles out of the way. It was a beautiful ride though and we would never have seen it if I hadn't screwed up. It started to rain about 50 miles from Evanston and rain fell heavy all night at the hotel in Evanston.

June 10th, We hit the road (in the rain) the next morning taking Hwy 189 all the way to Jackson Hole. This was the most rain we saw on the entire 13 day trip and we were in full rain gear all day on June 10th. Although we had some rain nearly every day in Wyoming and Montana, the showers were brief and light and we never needed the rain gear again. The last 50 miles coming into Jackson gets another 5 stars for it's rushing Hoback river which crosses under the highway several times prior to coming into the Jackson valley. What a beautiful area. We checked into the Motel 6 (which I would NOT recommend) and kicked around in Jackson for awhile. Very neat little town although a bit pretentious with it's fufu high dollar cowboy/western stuff. It was still early so we rode out to the Tetons for a pre-dinner run. We then found a great little Mexican place for dinner in Jackson and went back to the hotel.

June 11th, It's back through the Tetons this morning where motorcycles pay $20. That price includes both the Tetons National Park and Yellowstone National Park for a 7 day period. We took the scenic route through Tetons NP checking out all the lakes, rivers and nature centers. A 7 star scenic area!! It's time to head for Yellowstone.'s where it gets rough, the sign said, "pavement ends 5 miles ahead, loose gravel, flagmen, expect delays." Loose gravel my A@@!! Try sloppy, muddy, wed muck with some gravel mixed in. 11 miles of it!! By the time we hit pavement, our bikes looked like mud pies made into the shapes of motorcycles. You can imagine how crazy that made me! We pushed on to Old Faithful just as it was doing it's thing and then crossed the park to the West Yellowstone side and our rooms at the Best Western, Westin Inn. What a neat little town West Yellowstone is. I would call it a counter culture cowboy town. Several great restaurants and unique shops. There's even a bike related shop that carries all kinds of T-shirts, quality leather gear, biker sunglasses and several types of motorcycle oil. We booked three nights here in West Yellowstone. There are three Best Western's in town so make sure you book the BW Westin Inn if you go. Very nice and there's a full service launder-mat next door.

June 12th / 13th, There are 2 large loops in Yellowstone Park and we toured one each day checking out all the thermal features. One of the loops reaches 11 thousand feet and we experienced our coldest day up there, 41 degrees. Everything but the road was covered with snow and cars were stopped to watch a bear on a hillside. As cold as it was, we passed on bear watching.
As we were leaving the park each afternoon, we were confronted by large herds of bison crossing the road. We had just spoken to a ranger at the Fishing Bridge Nature Center that told us a large bull bison had charged a couple on a Harley a few weeks prior. The couple jumped clear but the bike sustained substantial damage and had to be towed out of the park.
The next day was especially scary as a group of 12 to 14 mature bulls decided to cross the road right in front of us. These things weigh in at over 2000 pounds and they look pissed off all the time.
One extremely large bull was getting agitated by all the cars and became unpredictable. He started putting his head down and posturing for attack. We edged our bikes alongside the cars to use them as a shield. A ranger then pulled up and started honking at the group of bulls in an attempt to get them off the road. This distracted the bull nearest me so I gave the bike full throttle and went around him.
The day before, a younger bull came directly up to my bike and just stood in front of me. I was looking eye to eye with him and bracing for the worst. He finally lost interest and changed direction. Very scary in deed! I'm not sure I would want to take that chance again. I'm thinking about a rental motor home for next time!

June 14, We headed for Helena on Hwy 287. Another 5 stars for scenic beauty passing near the turn off for the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area. Folks have gone in there and never come out.
A friend at work has a sister that lives in Helena and we stayed at her home for the night. She informed us of a road closer within Glacier Park that made us modify our plans. We had planed to take the east entrance into the Park the next morning and follow the famous "Going To The Sun Highway" across the park to the West side where we booked our hotel avalanche had blocked the road a few days before. Travelers could enter the park on either side but could only get as far as the barricades which were just about dead center in the park.

June 15th, We are now headed to the WEST entrance of Glacier which turned out to be another beautiful ride on highways 12, 141 and 83. We booked at The Village Inn at Apgar. The hotel is just steps from Lake McDonald and our accommodations were right on the lake. You open the door and there's the lake. 7 stars for shear scenic beauty. It was still early so we headed up Hwy 2 (inside the park) to check out the east side with it's glaciers but...the sky was black up ahead and bolts of lightning were flashing through the skies. Dan pulled over and said, " do you guys feels about riding up the west side of the park as far as the barricade?" We turned around following the river all the way. We parked the bikes at the west barricade and took a hike into the forest on nature trails. We saw a white mountain goat perched on a cliff about 700 feet above us. The sun doesn't go down up there until about 9:45 pm. It really looks like you're in Canada with the jagged snow capped mountains in the distance and the lakes and rivers in the foreground.

June 16th, We're taking scenic Hwy 93 this morning in route to Salmon Idaho. Hwy 93 goes all the way from Montana to Las Vegas Nevada. We had breakfast and gassed up in Kalispell. We then came upon Flathead Lake. I don't know the exact size of this lake but I would wager it's 3 times the size of Tahoe. It took almost an hour just to get around the west side of the lake. It's also every bit as beautiful as Tahoe. We then hit Missoula. Getting through Missoula on 93 was a bit of a pain with several long signals. I thought I was back in Orange County and then, you'll never guess.... another construction zone!! Basically 15/20 miles of dust, uneven mud and gravel. There was a payoff though.
As you wind into the hill country between Pinedale Montana and Salmon Idaho, you are following the Salmon River in an area that turned out to score a 10 for scenic beauty. I would live up there if I could afford to. This was the most beautiful country on the entire ride. We saw a herd of big horn sheep right next to the road. It's all ranch land, wide valleys, grassy meadows, pine wood mountains and the rushing Salmon River following you all the way. Breathtaking country! We stayed in Salmon idaho at a hotel that was right on the river, found a great place to eat and turned in for the night.

June 17th, We headed for Twin Falls today and stood on the big bridge where only a mile upstream, Evil tried to jump the Snake River in his rocket powered thing-a-ma jig! Naturally it crashed. It said Harley Davidson on the side of it so, what did he expect? We continued on to Jackpot Nevada and stayed at one the Casino's for the night. Prime rib with all the fixings - $5,95 but the scenery is starting to fade into your basic bland! We are in Navada after all!

June 18th, We headed out and got as far as Hwy 93 and I-80 and stopped for breakfast. This is where Mr. Talley said goodbye and headed west on I-80 to Napa where an old friend of his lives. He would then take the coast to Monterey to visit his X-wife. Dan and I continued on to North Vegas and booked a room at Lucky's Casino. It was now 99 degrees and the scenery in the last 100 miles was a big "0." We did see a few pronghorn antelope along this stretch though. I don't know how they live in that heat!

June 19th, It's 8:30 in the morning and it's already 90 degrees in Vegas. It's Vegas to Laguna Hills for me this morning. Dan has to make it all the way to San Diego. It was 101 degrees in Baker and the fun is over folks! Back to the smog, crowds, stupid drivers and THE worst stretch of highway on the planet. Are they EVER going to fix all the deep, basket ball size pot holes on the Cajon Pass and the 91 from Riverside to the 55???? I don't think so.

My total was 3,640 miles (with a couple of screw up's). The other guys did more with different starting/ending points.

I have to put in a plug for the Goldwing here. Not only did it live up to it's reputation as the finest touring bike in the world, it also handled the mud, gravel and dusty roads every bit as well as the BMW GS1150 which is designed for off-pavement conditions. I got 58.6 MPG between Helena and West Glacier at 65 mph with an average mpg of 48.2 over the entire trip. I love that Goldwing : )

See ya'll down the road!